Photo An­swers

Digital Camera World - - CONTENTS -

Your tricky ques­tions an­swered and key tech­niques re­vealed

When I take a shot of a re­flec­tion, it comes out darker than the sub­ject – but not in some other im­ages I see. Why is this? Keith Hooper

You are right to say that the re­flec­tion is darker than the

sub­ject it­self. This is be­cause the re­flected light com­ing off the sub­ject and the light com­ing off the re­flec­tion in the wa­ter are not equal.

In the case of the wa­ter, some of the light hit­ting it con­tin­ues into the wa­ter it­self, so the in­ten­sity of the re­flected light is ob­vi­ously less.

How much less is de­pen­dent on sev­eral fac­tors, such as the an­gle and strength of the light, so it’s im­pos­si­ble to say how much darker in terms of stops the re­flec­tion is likely to be. In my ex­pe­ri­ence, it can vary from as lit­tle as two-thirds of a stop to as much as one-and-a-half-stops.

In terms of ex­po­sure, this gives you an im­bal­ance to take into ac­count. You can use a phys­i­cal fil­ter, such as a grad­u­ated neu­tral-den­sity fil­ter to help; that’s ex­actly what I did with this lily im­age. A one-stop ND grad over the brighter flower has helped to bal­ance the ex­po­sure dif­fer­ence, but no­tice that the re­flec­tion is still slightly darker than the ac­tual lily. In the im­ages you’ve seen on­line, I’d guess the pho­tog­ra­phers have cho­sen to bring the re­flec­tion bright­ness up to match the sub­ject it­self.

That’s not dif­fi­cult to do but, to my eye, it al­ways looks slightly wrong if the re­flec­tion bright­ness is equal to the thing be­ing re­flected. If you want to keep things as nat­u­ral as pos­si­ble, try to have some dif­fer­en­ti­a­tion be­tween the two parts of the im­age. How­ever, that’s very much a creative choice, and up to the in­di­vid­ual to de­cide how they want to in­ter­pret the scene they are shoot­ing.

You can cheat na­ture a lit­tle to level up the ex­po­sure of your reflections, but don’t go too far.

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